Bloodlines: tracing channel history with Phil Myers

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

This story concerns a group of shapers. A loose collective of gentlemen that shared their ideas with each other, both willingly and otherwise, whose work was advanced by collaboration and competition so the end product was better than any of them could create alone.

Of course shaping isn’t the only creative field that progresses by cross-pollination, so it’s fitting that the starting point of this article is the written work of another author.

In 2011 Andrew Kidman wrote a typically understated story about meeting Allan Byrne at Byrne’s shaping room at Currumbin.

The purpose of Kidman’s visit was to talk about channel pioneer, Jim Pollard. Byrne is occasionally credited as having invented channels, however Pollard had been shaping them for two years before Byrne even laid eyes on one. Yet when he did it was a veritable lightbulb moment.

“That moment where [Jim Pollard] explained it to me, that was one of those moments in my life where I was at the crossroads,” says Byrne to Kidman,  “and he made me turn and follow a different direction away from everyone else.”

From then on channel bottoms, in particular deep clinker channels mixed with flyers and swallow tails, became Byrne’s signature design. And he, along with Pollard, Col Smith, Phil Myers, Marty Littlewood, Mike Davis, Jack Knight, and Erle Pederson formed a loose collective that specialised in channel bottoms. Together they pushed the design from the periphery to the cutting edge.

Byrne remained indebted to Pollard and he said as much to Andrew Kidman. “If he’s still alive tell him fucken thank you,” gushes Byrne. “He was one of those bright stars that flitted through the night sky and disappeared again. He changed my world.”

The interview ends with Kidman ordering a board from Al Byrne, a “period 1980 single fin, double flyer swallow, channel bottom.” A signature Al Byrne surfboard.

It was a timely purchase. Two years later Allan Byrne was gone.

(Photo Kidman)

Another story by another author

In 2015 Derek Rielly of Beach Grit suggested 10 things every surfer should do before they die. Number two on the list was ‘Order a surfboard from Simon Anderson’.

Rielly made many similar observations as Kidman - “Simon works out of a small factory in an anonymous industrial estate in Mona Vale” - though unlike Kidman, he had one clear eye on posterity. “Do your future grandchildren a service by ordering up a craft from the inventor of the Thruster.”

Rielly urges surfers to take advantage of Simon Anderson’s status as national living treasure. It’s sentimental, no doubt, and not a tone that Rielly usually strikes, yet there’s also an element of utility and it’s that aspect I clung on to.

Simon, however, ain't the only shaper that qualifies for the living treasure title. In my mind there's a few of 'em.

Last year, my own thoughts

There’s a wave near home that I’ve had designs on since I first saw it break. It lies on an otherwise dormant section of reef so it only breaks a handful of times each year. It’s not only rare but peculiar, requiring a particular strategy to surf it. The guys that do, and there’s only a few of them, take an angled entry from just behind the peak which allows a running start into a completely front loaded first section. There’s no other means to the end.

The infrequency of the wave has given me time to think about the best approach to surfing it and what equipment would be necessary.

Meanwhile, towards the end of last year I wrote an article on the history of channel bottoms, an assignment that required conversing with some of the aforementioned channel pioneers. Among them was Phil Myers.

Though the article was published in August it wasn’t concluded. The ideas within it stayed with me.

A phone call

“I’m looking for a modern gun shape. It’s gotta be a paddler with lots of foam under the chest for early entry, but also have a drawn out pintail for hold. And it needs to be fast - real fast.

“Size?”

“Seven-oh.”

“Channels?”

“Ten.”

“Fins?”

“One.”

In my opinion, a sleek ten channel single fin is Phil Myers’ signature board. Phil himself may disagree, after all he sticks a decal reading ‘Col Smith Channel Model’ on the bottom of such boards.

The late Col Smith was also heavily influenced by Jim Pollard. When Col famously won the 1977 Pro Class Trials in Hawaii, one of the greatest underdog wins ever, he was riding Pollard’s equipment. That win introduced channel bottoms to the world. Col later branched off to develop his own style of channels and for a time he shaped alongside Phil at Free Flight making surfboards much like the one I ordered. The materials are modern, the planshape is timeless, but the channels carve a direct line back to 1980. Back when a loose collective of shapers - some of whom aren’t with us anymore - were pushing the outside of the design envelope.

Thirty years later and those ideas are still expedient for certain situations.

I had one more request to make before the call was over.

“And Phil, can you write ‘Bloodlines’ down the stringer?”

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 12:44pm

"Channels?"

"ten"

"Fins?"

"two"

"what the...?!"

"just fuckin' with ya'- one"

"phew"

Great article.

That spray looks wicked.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 1:07pm

Nice.
Surfed the AB since you bought it much?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 1:09pm

Only a handful of times and I'm always worried I'll break it. I wouldn't forgive myself if I did.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 1:33pm

Saw a bloke selling a quiver of 3 AB's the other day for $4,000.
I've got 2 left and no money could buy them.

boxright's picture
boxright's picture
boxright commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 2:03pm

Fuck boardshorts.
Fuck t shirts.
Fuck fashion.
It's only surfboards that matter and the guys that shape them.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 2:12pm

Check Phil's next customer and imagine the damage he's gonna do.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 2:32pm

No room for Flex with those glassed Ribs.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 2:36pm

Ha ha ha...there's more than one way to skin a cat.

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 4:10pm

Hmmm, I believe you ordered "straight line speed..... as in, like a Ferrari....." there sir!

"(Stu) as a matter of fact I did, with extra drive and bite to hold my line; no matter what."

Awesome. Let us all know how she goes in due course, at that rare-breaking wave you ordered her for.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 4:21pm

Top notch story , Stu.

That's why I come to Swellnet.

wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8 commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 4:28pm

Well that was good......the story AND the board.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 5:25pm

You do realise that you'll have to file an update report once you ride it? Good!

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 6:09pm

Beautiful looking board.

Imagine that at 6ft Speedies

ahhhhhhhh

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 7:57pm

Funny 'bout that. I'm booking shortly and you can be sure as hell this board'll be making the trip with me

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 1:34pm

Hah, I was drooling over a 6'8 Byrning Spears single (immaculately shaped by Dale Wilson) and thinking of another long Indo left.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 6:19pm

Honest question here, Stu.

I suppose you answered it in the article , but....how much of it is just the purchase of an artwork by a renown artist and how much is pragmatism ?

Do you believe that board would be in any way superior to a state of the art modern gun ?

I've never even ridden a single fin since my beginner days , let alone one with 10 ( ! ) deeep channels. Do you think a singly is superior in any way or is it nostalgia / novelty / fresh approach to an old feel ?

This wave you're describing is a barrel , yes ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:08pm

Mixed motivations, Blowin. Like most things.

But, and I can assure you this, you dont wanna get caught short at the wave in question, so function most definetely came before form.

I took a 7'0" by a very reputable shaper out there but the angles were so curved, the foam distribution meagre and the fucker just wouldn't paddle. Prolly go great in Indo, which is where that shaper gets many of his kudos but I need a whole different beast.

I've never really ridden a single fin. Took a leap with that decision. Don't expect I'll be pumping or weaving much anyway.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:19pm

Are you saying your Banksy was verging on the ridiculous ?

Straight , flat ,fat , fast and paddle like fuck I reckon.

But those rails have to be like a pair of honed blades.

I just got a dream board , only to take it to a heavily pitching reef pit and have the semi rounded rails come up short. Still making waves , but....scratching off the bottom and those faith based , blind drops were more corrected error than trial.

Fuck , I could talk surfing all day at the moment.

Never been more in love with it.

You talked to your mate Pete about best time to hit G Land ?

He's got a special window that he's enjoyed.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:15pm

Right shaper, wrong wave.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:24pm

Is this wave on your backhand ?

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 6:47pm

Good to see Phil getting the recognition he deserves. A true shaping master and I remember him being pretty good in the water too.

easterly

Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfc... commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 7:09pm

Board looks sick, down the line pleasure machine

prawnhead's picture
prawnhead's picture
prawnhead commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 7:39pm

Privileged enough to grow up watching Col Smith riding these ......doubt if i will ever see anyone ride them with the same amount of panache that he did at downtown Redhead ......! Glassers nightmare though...! the original Jim Pollards were smooth contour type channels if i remember correctly ...and there were one or two versions with curves exiting towards the flyers i think .....

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 7:53pm
simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:09pm

Stu any thoughts on fin size with channels like that?

simba

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:14pm

Ha...no. I'm a bit new to singlies so I'm asking around.

I got a board off Allan Byrne once and he sold me a set of self-made FCS compatible fins. They were smaller than any FCS fins on the market at that time. His thinking was the fins can be reduced cos the channels provide enough surface grip.

So that's my thinking too. Perhaps a 7.5 inch single fin fits the bill?

Really, I'm open to any well informed suggestions.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:54pm

I wonder what George G would recommend for a Fin ?

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 11:11pm

I'll see if I can get a picture up of my 81 model Col Smith 6 channel pin tail gun. (not sure with how to do that tho?) I've always used 3 different fins, depending on the wave size and how much juice is on tap. Fin placement in the box can be tricky too. You will need one of those adjustable screws so you can fiddle with each fin to find the right sweet spot for the particular type of wave, while you're out there in the water.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:11pm

Actually why not do an interview with Hoyo?Man loves his channels.

simba

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:27pm

Just interview Hoyo cause you can.

Less Trump, more Hoy.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 8:43pm

Hoy
drededeck insta

Dusty_balls's picture
Dusty_balls's picture
Dusty_balls commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 9:18pm

Became a channel convert a while back....In juicy clean W.A waves you can't beat them.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 9:20pm

Can't wait for some feedback on this pleasure machine

hollowdays's picture
hollowdays's picture
hollowdays commented Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 9:28pm

When talking about the history of channel bottoms, Mt Woodgee Surfboards should not be forgotten as it is one of the Gold Coast oldest Manufacturers. Channels have always been a big part of their lineup from the 70s to present day. Back in the day, Nick, Mt Woodgee's founder shaped some of the best Channels around and to the present day you can order one shaped by Ian Byrne or Gill Glover. both of these guys are master craftsmen and know how to tune one of these to your needs, weather it's a step up or a shorter poddy version. It's good to see the revival in these boards and if you haven't had one, you should make room for one or two in your quiver.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 12:27pm

I've heard that Stumpy and Mick Grace played a significant role in the initial development of Jim Pollards first generation channel bottoms (apparently they both were shaping for Jim at the time). Would be great if someone could verify this as, if true, they need some recognition too.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 2:47pm

Are you talking about Stumpy from the M.P? And Mick Pierce or Phil Grace? I'm not sure about a Mick Grace.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 3:25pm

Peter 'Stumpy' Wallace and Mick Grace from the Sunshine Coast. Mick Grace is also a pioneer, if not the inventor of step-rail surfboards (wish I owned one of those; very functional piece of equipment).

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 3:54pm

Ahh my mistake, there's a couple of shapers down here.. Andrew Stump and Mick Pierce / Phil Grace.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 12:54pm

Little vid on Phil, recently compiled and posted:

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 at 1:30pm

There is
There is a 7'6 by 19 and a half by 2 and three quarters

There is a 7'6 times 19 and a half by 2 and three quarters Phil Myers sitting in the spare room getting dusty. Old mate got excuses not to surf it but I have to honour the spirit of its design. Just a sly little bazza hunt and a few speed runs. Besides it needs a wash cause it belongs dancing in the waves . Great board stu. Get slotted male and be safe.

a 7'6

davetherave

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc commented Sunday, 26 Feb 2017 at 6:28pm

Ace looking board!
Great interview with Phil.
I found a board around the corner from my house a few years back. It had been painted flat black all over, so I took it and washed the paint off with thinners. The dumb brain was working well, as the end result was a dinged and onion ringed board now highlighted with black everywhere. The thinners soaked deep into every onion ring. The now brightly coloured 80's board was a Phil Meyers, Free Flight Hydro tail, channel bottom, square tail fat little thruster. I wish now that I had just dry sanded the paint off.
Bob Brown talked me out of buying a S/H Col Smith channel pin tail in his shop in the very early 80's, It had a checker black and white bottom from memory and every time I walked past it I stopped and starred at it. He said that it wasn't a board to start out on. I would not be surprised if it was Col's old board, as he did surf around the area and possibly shaped there.
If you ever get the chance to have a board sprayed by Jim Davidson, your Grandkids will love you for it. These boards will always be highly collectable.
I also think a board shaped by your favourite local shaper and signed by all your surf buddies as a kid, would be priceless to you when your older.

Beepa's picture
Beepa's picture
Beepa commented Friday, 24 Feb 2017 at 8:24am

Stu on fin size I recently got a 7'2 brining spears shaped by dale based off A.Bs 81 pipe board the fin is 7 inch and is an A.B design, as a side note wasn't sold on the board til I moved the fin a number of times cheers

Cetus's picture
Cetus's picture
Cetus commented Wednesday, 1 Mar 2017 at 8:16pm

When are you going to collate all these stories into a hardcover Stu? It'd fit well in my bookshelf alongside MP's book and the art of surfboards!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 7 Mar 2017 at 9:28pm

Hearing this board had a run today ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 9:46am

Fuck! That's Big Brother stuff, Udo.

Yeah, took it for a run. Actually it was my second surf on it as I also took it out midday Monday. I only want to ride it when the surf is good...well, good and big 'cos it needs the speed. Kinda flounders a little at low revs.

Feels utterly fantastic once it's locked and loaded and driving into sections with a head of steam. Got a couple of waves that I shuffled up the board so my front foot was near the wide point and rear foot directly above the channels. On those waves it did everything I hoped it would in terms of speed, positioning, and feeling.

It's been a long time since I've ridden a single so I paddled out each session very mindful of the limitations: don't run too far out on the face; delay the bottom turn if necessary; tail stalls have gotta be accurate 'cos you don't get a second chance at speed when it's heaving. Felt good having a strategy, staying focussed, and then getting a payoff.

It's got me thinking about ten channels singles on shorter boards, though I'm still pretty smitten with the boards I'm riding in smaller waves.

The 7'0" receives a bit of attention in the carpark. Been a few photos taken of it. I assume that's how you know...?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:00am

Good times.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:05am

Yep via piccie..what size fin did u use ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:07am

Borrowing a 7.5 inch off a mate and placed it midway up the box.

I've got a 7.25 from Surf Eclipse Accesories on its way down here.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:12am

Get a fin cam screw for minor in water adjustments

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:13am

Yeah, been wondering about how that'd be possible. Thanks for the heads up.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:14am

Very handy!!

50young's picture
50young's picture
50young commented Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017 at 10:27am

Just go FCS2 got one in my performance longboard, flip it over in the water and adjust in seconds. They fit all boxs

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 10 Mar 2017 at 1:28pm

Doing the do:

And a sneaky insider:

 

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 10 Mar 2017 at 2:49pm

I'd call that a good result.

Fucking stoked.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Friday, 10 Mar 2017 at 2:50pm

Well looks like Stues happy........so whats the feed back now,you know the nitty gritty.

simba

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 10 Mar 2017 at 3:46pm

Good stuff, Stu. Is this where I think it is - around the corner from a busy righthander?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 17 Mar 2017 at 8:25pm

Hoyo with his version: